The Memphis Tigers continue their storied season and move to the next round of the playoffs as the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference Division-II Champions.
Memphis finished the season perfect in their division and earned an automatic bid to the postseason. The team agreed that the remainder of the games ahead is not guaranteed. Memphis is sent home after the first loss in the playoffs. Captain Musa Banat said the team has turned up the intensity in practice.
“It seems like everyone is on board with what we need to do,” Banat said. “There is not any half-hearted work going on around here.”
The team prepared to host a home playoff game; however, their plans were changed unexpectedly. The Tigers moved to the Round of 16 after their competition, Southeastern Louisiana, forfeited. The Lions could not confirm their ability to engage in the postseason. Every other team in the DII postseason played a game. Banat said the team stayed healthy, but the team could have been better with another game.
“We were all anticipating a good match,” Banat said. “I always prefer to play. Nothing is better than playing.”
The Tigers faced nearly the same issue as SELU did when it related to the ability to pursue a postseason. Low funding cut the Lions out of the playoff picture, and the Tigers had a steep requirement for funding as well. So far, the team started a GoFundMe page and has asked for donations.
Memphis joins 15 other DII teams from across the country to compete for a national title. The Tigers are prepared to travel to Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, for the next two rounds of the playoffs.
The Tigers were placed in the Northeast region for the playoffs. The University of Vermont, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Villanova University took the other spots in the Northeast region.
The South Region has been narrowed to four teams, Loyola-Chicago, William Paterson, Norwich and Furman. The mid-Atlantic Region is represented by Queens, Lehigh, Grand Valley State and UMass-Lowell. Lastly, the Midwest region is comprised of Illinois State, Moorhead, Montana State and Missouri S&T.
Senior Brittin Roedel said he was excited, and he hoped the team performs well.
“I think simple, clean rugby is what wins a game,” Roedel said. “If we execute the little things, then the big picture falls in place.”
Memphis had two weeks to prepare for their next opponent, the Villanova Wildcats. The Wildcats will play Memphis, and the winner will advance to the Round of 8.
The Round of 8 will be played the following day. Whichever team is victorious in that game will be crowned the Northeast region Champion.
Roedel said the only thing that could stop the team would be themselves.
“If we don’t play our ball and keep a cool head, then we are going to make mistakes,” Roedel said. “Mistakes are going to be why we lose games.”
Any team that wins the following two games is placed in the Final 4 two weeks later. The Northeast champions are required to play the Midwest champions, and the South champions are set to play the mid-Atlantic champions. The team that wins their next two games is crowned Men’s DII National Champions in Matthews, North Carolina.
“I think that if we play our rugby, we can compete with the best,” Roedel said.